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Preliminary results from the 2020 International Observation Days for the Bearded Vulture

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Bearded Vulture and ibex in Wallis, Switzerland during the IOD 2020 (c) Massimo Prati

Every year, Bearded Vulture researchers and enthusiasts carry out simultaneous counts across the Alpine chain and other European regions to better estimate the species’ population size. 

We now have the preliminary results for the 2020 International Observation Days (IOD) for the Bearded Vulture, which took place at the beginning of October for the 15th consecutive year in a row!

Understanding the Bearded Vulture population 

The International Observation Days (IOD) has become an important event for ornithologist and bird-watchers, fascinated by this large bird species. This initiative has been bringing hundreds of members of the public together with Bearded Vulture experts and experienced bird watchers for years now to carry out a simultaneous and coordinated survey on a focal day to estimate the species’ population in certain areas. This count also allows for thorough monitoring of the Bearded Vulture population status and distribution in almost its full European distribution range. Furthermore, the count produces many sightings of identified individuals, and it generates baseline data for conservation scientists to analyse survival rates and model the age structure of the population, which will help us understand differences in survival by region and impact of conservation measures. 

Overview of IOD in 2020

Bearded Vultures have been observed at 176 (red triangles) out of 499 occupied observation sites during the IOD- period (3.-10.10.2020)

In 2020, the IOD took place between 3-10 October for the 15h consecutive time! Furthermore, the event was organised in seven countries by the regional coordinators of the International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM), which is coordinated by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF). The IOD covers large parts of the Alpine arc across Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland (since 2006), parts of the Massif Central (since 2012), the eastern part of the French Pyrenees (since 2016), several regions in Spain (since 2017) and some areas in Bulgaria (since 2018). 

Monitoring this species on a European wide scale would not have been possible without the regional coordinators’ effort and expertise of the IBM-partners and several associated organisations. Thanks to this international collaboration, it was possible to attain some preliminary results.

Preliminary results

Only ~1/3 of the observation site profited from favourable weather on the focal day (3.10.2020)

Due to unfavourable weather conditions on this year’s focal day on 3 October 2020, the event had to be cancelled or postponed in some areas. Although these conditions prevented simultaneous observations from taking place across the entire monitoring area, nearly 500 observation posts were occupied by 787 observers during the entire IOD period. Bearded Vulture observations have been reported from 176 (35%) out of the 499 observation sites. Since a coordinated count was not possible this year and weather conditions negatively influenced the number of Bearded Vulture observations and identifications, no population estimates can be made for 2020. However, the collected data will be further evaluated to describe the age structure. Identified individuals provide important information that influence parameters for demographic modelling. These results will be published in a more detailed report in 2021. 

Download the Preliminary Summary of the 2020 IOD Results


Adobe Acrobat Document 627.6 KB

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International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network

The International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM) is a unique international collaboration led by the Vulture Conservation Foundation between national & natural parks and non-governmental organisations to coordinate the monitoring activities for European Bearded Vulture populations. Through this network, data about the Bearded Vulture in Europe is collected, shared and made available to everyone working for the conservation of the species. The IBM-network also uses this data and comes together to discuss conservation strategies and priorities for this species on an international level. There are currently 16 partners and two associated organisations part of the IBM-network.

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